A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Essay by Anonymous UserHigh School, 10th gradeA+, December 1996

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The three dichotomous symbols in A Separate Peace by John Knowles reinforce the innocence and evil of the main characters, Finny and Gene. Beside the Devon School flow two rivers on opposite sides of the school, the Naguamsett and the Devon. The Devon provides entertainment and happiness for Gene and Finny as they jump from the tree into the river and hold initiations into the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session. Finny, Gene, and their friends use the Devon's warm water to play in during the carefree summer session. The Devon brings out Finny's carefree character and personality when he jumps from the limbs of the tree. Not one Upper Middler in Devon has ever jumped from the tree; Finny becomes the first. After surfacing, Finny says that jumping from the tree causes the most fun he has had in weeks. However, the Naguamsett and the Devon completely contrast.

When Gene and Finny emerge from the Devon, they feel clean and refreshed. However, Gene describes the Naguamsett as 'ugly, saline, fringed with marsh, mud and seaweed' (68). When Gene starts a fight with Quackenbush and falls into the Naguamsett because Quackenbush calls Gene 'a maimed son-of-a-bitch,' Gene surfaces from the Naguamsett feeling grimy, dirty and in desperate need of a bath (71). Much like the clean, refreshing water of the Devon and the ugly saline water of the Naguamsett, Gene's carefree attitude of the summer session vastly differs from the angry, confused attitude of the winter session.

Likewise, the two sessions, the summer and winter, give a different sense of feeling toward school and life at Devon School. The summer session allows Finny to use his creativity. Finny invents blitzball and founds the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session. The students let their carefree attitudes flow during the...